Lately as garden season has started underway in Indiana, I’ve been getting a lot of people who are very overwhelmed by gardening. The conversation usually goes like this:
Me– So did you plant a garden this year?
Me-Why? I plant one every year. I love it.
Them- Well its just so hard. I mean I till and plant and I try to weed, but I get busy and cant. Then a month goes by and my garden looks like a jungle. Then I dont even want to go out there because it will take forever to weed. If I do try I dont even make a dent in it! So I’m just not planting one this year.
WOW. Is this you?? I was talking with a lady just yesterday who said she doesn’t plant a garden because she was slave labor in her childhood and she hated it. I’m pretty sure we all did as kids, but life taught me that just because you didn’t like something when you were young, doesn’t mean you wont like it now as an adult.
My love for gardening came from being forced to. I was a child slave in the garden. I snapped my fair share of beans instead of riding my bike. I weeded so slow I was out there all day, but when I decided to be a stay at home mom and finances didn’t include much food because of diapers, I had to do something. I had my mom help me grow my first garden. Then I tried my own with minimal help the second year. I had to learn to can. I bought a dehydrator as to not waste anything we could possibly eat. Yes I had kids and yes I still gardened. It’s amazing what you can do when you are hungry 😉
The main thing I learned in my years of gardening is you dont have to weed everything all the time. Last year I took on way too much in the way of gardening. It was my first CSA year and I was raising animals plus homeschooling in the summer because we didn’t get all the way done. I was working for Farmer Joe and by August my garden looked worse than a jungle. Weeds so thick you would would have thought no food what so ever was in there, yet each time I’d walk in with my milk crate, I’d come out with it full.
The trick is knowing when you have to weed and when you dont. The biggest best example I can give you is corn. I weed my corn twice. Yup..thats right. I have a 35×50 foot plot of corn..about 400 plants and have weeded twice. You till, weed when the corn is about a couple inches high and you can make sure you dont pull any out, then when it looks really weedy do it again about 2-4 weeks later. That’s it. Just let those silly weeds grow. Your corn really wont care. If they get too tall take the weed-eater in there and go between your rows. If you have chickens you can do what I do. Fence in your area with temporary fencing when your corn is knee tall, then let them in for a few days. My corn has never suffered.. How did I learn this? Failure lol. I failed to weed because I just didn’t have time.
Many plants hate weeds but some dont really seem to care. Trial and error is the best method as I have yet to find a book that is called Garden Weeds- Let them Grow! So here is what I try to keep weeded and what I dont.
Do Weed (pretty much as soon as you see weeds):
- Lettuce and greens- spinach, romaine, iceburg, leaf lettuce, arugula etc. It sucks to pick grass out of a salad!
- Green beans- too much green and its hard to find the beans!
- Cabbage- they just dont like weeds
Weed if you can(every month):
- Cucumbers- put these on a trellis to save space, makes weeding easy, they dont care about weeds
- Green Peppers-place grass clippings around the base fairly thick but not too thick as to create a lot of “heat”
- Tomatoes- place grass clippings around the base fairly thick but not too thick as to create a lot of “heat”
- Peas- put these on a trellis to save space, makes weeding easy, they dont care about weeds
Don’t Weed much(1-2 times in a garden season):
- Crops that Vine on the ground- watermelon, pumpkins, muskmelon-mulch heavy with straw instead
- Corn-weed twice or so and use a weed-eater between rows
- Bulb onions-weed enough that the roots get a good start
- rhubarb-as you harvest take the leaves and lay them out flat around the area, it acts like a mulch
- asparagus- I weed until the shoots start coming up and then I leave it and pick, when the season is done, I mulch heavily with grass clippings
- Carrots- weed when they are 2-3 inches tall, again when they are about 6 inches tall. after that the tops will keep most out-plant them close! (my rows are about 6 inches apart)
- potatoes- weed when they first come out of the ground, weed again when they are about 4 inches tall. shovel dirt around the leaves to increase potato yield, leave about 2 inches showing and this will automatically make it weed free. use straw to build up mounds too
- radishes- twice is about all you would use anyway before they would be ready to eat!
- turnips- weed when they are about 3-4 inches tall and again at 5-6. the leaves will keep out the rest
Some other garden tips would be:
- plant your stuff in a 3 foot bed, pack it with as many rows as you can, and make a walkway on each side. It allows the soil to stay loose around the plants in the middle and you can weed-eat the walking rows.
- Remember not to let your weeds go to seed!
- When you get done at the end of the season and you’ve harvested, till and plant buckwheat. Just throw it on the top of the soil and rake it in. It grows in about a month, chokes out weeds, and is bee friendly! It dies with snow.
- if you are waiting to plant a second crop in late summer also till and throw in buckwheat until then.
- use grass clippings as much as you can because its a green manure and will break down over winter
- use other forms of weed barriers you buy at the store but dont drain your pocket each year, your doing this to save money…
- relax! weeds happen!!
Remember gardening isnt about having absolutely no weeds in your garden, it’s about growing your own food! Who cares if it doesnt look like the fields of corn and soybeans sprayed with roundup. It’s not suppose to. It’s suppose to be enjoyable and fun. The next time someone looks at your garden and says, “Man that is full of weeds!” Just say, “That’s ok, weeds happen, they will all be tilled under in the fall, break down during winter, and I will have even better soil next year!”
Happy Homesteading!! 😀